Marseilles, May 1827. Local notables were invited by the wife of the Prefect of the Bouches-du-Rhône to meet the Beautiful African, a gift from the Pasha of Egypt to King Charles X during a “giraffe dinner”.
The Giraffe (in the 19th century, she was provided two f’s) is also called “Zarafa”, a corruption of the Arabic word for giraffe, zérafa, which literally means charming, pleasant. She waits peacefully in her stable set up in the courtyard of the Prefecture where she has been lodged for almost six months. Enter the guests of Madame the Countess: an ageing actress, and the Mother Superior of a convent. An unexpected journalist comes in. The famous giraffe and her Franco-Egyptian guardian Joseph are among the guests. There is a clash of outlooks and cultures which are arbitrated by the Prefect, the passionate Count of Villeneuve-Bargemon.
Faced with this eccentricity of nature, the sources of the surprises are numerous. The giraffe raises heated debates, not only on zoology, but also on the burning issues of religion and politics. Above all, it reveals contradictory motivations: racism or tolerance, respect or condescension, love of science or greed. The disappearance of the Giraffe’s talisman suddenly changes the tone of the evening: the silver case containing a Koranic verse, supposed to protect Zarafa from the evil eye, has been stolen… Let no one go out the door!
The Talisman of the Giraffe is a historical comedy, written in alexandrines, for four actresses and two actors. The play premiered on May 11, 2017, in the garden of the Natural History Museum of La Rochelle: directed by Ivola Pounembetti, with Jean-Michel BRU (Joseph), Olivier LEBLEU (Villeneuve), Violaine PÉRÈS (the Countess), Ivola POUNEMBETTI (Eulalie), Clara SBAIHI (Constance) and Sylvie TASSIN (the Mother Superior). Costumes: Blandine RENÉ. Sound and light director: Chloé MARCEL. Assistant: Emma VEYRON Graphic work: NOAR NOARNITO.
The full text of the piece was published by AMOK Editions in 2017.
(Photo credit: Tony Angeniard)